Monthly Archives: October 2013

Whatever is Excellent

I’ve just started my new position as rector of St Peter’s in Edmonton. (Six weeks in, so everyone still thinks I’m new. A year from now, church members will still understand that I’m new.)

As with most new clergy, I’m frequently asked one question. “How are you going to save the Church?”

People don’t actually say that. I hear it underneath the questions they voice: “How old is your congregation?…What can you do to bring in young people?” “Are you worried about the budget?” “Churches, well mainline Protestant Churches, are shrinking, why do you think that is?” “Do you think the Church is still relevant to people today?”
“How are you going to save the Church?”

I don’t think they like my answer.

There is the snarky, true, answer. I am not going to save the Church. As with the rest of the world, Jesus Christ has, is, will save the Church. (Often from the Church.)

I believe that. I don’t say that.
I don’t say that these questions, especially about young people, often have me imagining a white panel van, ‘Church’ emblazoned on the side, waiting for the correct candy.

I point out that the fears about the downfall of the Church and the Gospel are unfounded. Both have survived and flourished through far more.
I assure them that I don’t have a three or five or seven point plan.
People hang on with me through those.

I go on to say that we need to learn what we believe and articulate it excellently. We need to discern what the mission of this parish is and engage excellently in it.
This is where, I suspect, I lose people. No one has told me I am crazy, my idea doomed, and left abruptly. I think they are too polite. This is where I get the sense that they understand that my not-a-plan would really benefit from a plan.

After all, isn’t this what the Church does? Seek out new members? Because we need more people and more money, (two phrases for the same problem). Or at least new Christians (who will tithe!)?

If I were worried about saving the Church, and the young people, and the money, I’m relatively sure that’s still the wrong approach.

Jesus Christ, through his ministry and his resurrection, has, is, will save the Church.
Jesus Christ, through his ministry and his resurrection, has, is, will save the World.

In the midst of Jesus’s work, we are to think and do whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise. (Philippians 4:8)

This is not finding young people, growing the Church, or fixing the budget. The Church’s mission is not youth and money. The Church’s mission is the living and the proclamation of the Gospel (two phrases for the same thing).

We as people and we as the Church occasionally manage to do whatever is excellent.

More often I find that we get distracted. The budget needs fixing, someone dies, our community is fighting, we have doubts, we have debts, the music program has fallen apart, we are old, we are tired. We are no longer being excellent. We are hoping for a three point plan to save the Church.

I want to work on whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, that’s what I want to be about.

And then tell people about it.

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Joyous Thanks, Harvest Celebration 10-13-13

The readings were Deuteronomy 26:1-11, Psalm 100, Phillipians 4:4-9, and John 6:25-35.

Thanksgiving is only the beginning.

Listen:

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SR Holy Ground P22/OT27 6Sept13

Link: Holy Ground 6 Sept 13

Summary of what I was saying and why:
These are not happy readings. Lamentations, Timothy needing bucking up, disciples asking for more faith and being told they are slaves.
And when I read through them two things stood out Timothy inherited his faith (as we have ours) and the mourning over what once was. Aside from the fact that moaning about the denigration for current state of the Church is a bit of a button, I’ve long believed that you don’tget to complain unless you are helping fix the problem. (Why do you think I’ve been involved with the Church for so long?)

Theology: Resurrection and evangelism
Jesus Count: low
Good News: we are waiting to be filled

What did I change on my feet?
Not a lot. Which is good, this was an “we all hang together” sort of sermon.
What didn’t work/what did I miss?
I missed a paragraph in at the first service, it still worked but was weaker. At the second service I felt like I missed something about the conclusion, but I don’t know quite what.
What did work?
There were a lot of pieces that had to come together for this to work. And this is a more formal tone than I usually preach in. I was happy to be out of my comfort zone and happier that I kept track of all the pieces.

Other sermons I liked:

Priest Witt works with a favorite quote from Archbishop Romero.

Priest Pankey had me thinking about a God who knows what we need (and don’t need) before we can ask. (Which comes from the ’79 BCP, not the sermon.)

Dean Richards talks about Facebook, meta narrative, all of the great and hard baggage we have inherited, and which story we tell. I do want to point out that there is a difference between poor use of Facebook and Facebook being a poor tool.

(Here’s the list of people I usually listen to. Am I missing someone?)
The Anglican Church of Canada uses the Roman Ordinary Time numbering system instead of numbering the Propers. Because all of this is new to me, I’m now indicating both numbering systems.

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Holy Ground, P22/OT27 sermon 6 Sept 13

The lessons can be found by clicking here.  I worked with all of them a bit.

What is Holy Ground?

Listen:

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SR Angels and Coyote, Michelmas 2013

Link: Angels and Coyote, Michelmas 2013

Summary of what I was saying and why:
I wanted to work with the richness and variety of angels in the Bible. Tricksters are almost and not at all analogous, so I brought Coyote in a little. (Coyote stories can be found here among other places.)

Theology: Angelology
Jesus Count: low
Good News: Do not be afraid, God has come near to us.

What did I change on my feet?
Everything. I woke up and rearranged everything, which worked better at the second service than the first. Then I forgot transitions. The first service’s sermon was a mess. This one got a little better.
What didn’t work/what did I miss?
At the early service it felt like most everything. In this one, mostly transitions.
What did work?
I preached on angels and their biblical tradition. I was happy I did and have been amazed at the response.

Other sermons I liked:

Priest Castellan seeks Christ in Lazarus (and others).

Priest Sherer considers the importance of awareness to privilege.

Priest Sinclair preaches on the mouthpieces of God (and I remember Alan Rickman in Dogma.)

(Here’s the list of people I usually listen to. Am I missing someone?)
The Anglican Church of Canada uses the Roman Ordinary Time numbering system instead of numbering the Propers. Because all of this is new to me, I’m now indicating both numbering systems.

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Angels and Coyote, Michelmas Sermon 29Sept13

The Anglican Church of Canada allows that, when the 29th is on a Sunday, Michelmas is celebrated.  The lessons can be found by clicking here.  I worked with the Biblical tradition of Angels.

Do not be afraid. Angels exist to speak God in our lives.

Listen

 

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